Friends of the Sicily Island Hills

Posted: November 21, 2009 in Homepage

The recession as we all know has had a devastating effect on the economy at multiple levels, none the least on government agencies. Money and projects must be stretched to the maximum these days. I have no idea what the budget or the financial situation is with the state as far as upkeep of the Sicily Island Hills Wildlife Management Area but I think it would be safe to say the keepers of the flame so to speak are not sitting on a reserve of gold.

It would be nice if a friends group would be formed to aid the state in things like educational programs, fund raisers, promotion and public awareness, and trail maintenance.

Rock Falls by Landon Powers

Just as in other parts of the country, there are places that attract visitors
because of the scenery or weather conditions. Then there are some places that are created with tourism in mind. Helen, Georgia and Leavenworth, Washington both had declining economies and both communities forged a plan to become pleasant places in peoples minds. The result after a lot of hard work are places that bring dollars and visitors year round to their communities.

In the late 90’s in Monroe at Black Bayou Lake, a partnership was formed with the U.S. Fish and  Wildlife Service to create a national wildlife refuge. In cooperation with this effort a friends support group was formed. The Friends of Black Bayou Lake N.W.R has had a huge impact on the quality of the experience the many thousands of visitors have enjoyed. Because of the Friends of Black Bayou a wonderful visitor center exists and is staffed by members. The Education Building happened because of this group. Day time and night time activities have flourished due to the friends groups involvement.Canoes are available for floating the lake. An annual photography contest is held. The list goes on.

Needless to say, without the incredible dedication and willingness of members of this group to constantly look for new ways to enhance this wildlife refuge, this place would not have achieved the level of excellence that has come its way. As you may or may not know, the Friends of Black Bayou Lake NWR was chosen and honored in Washington, D.C  a couple of years ago as the finest friends group in the entire country. Considering all their hard work, its easy to to see the reason for their selection. In addition, a photograph taken at Black Bayou Lake NWR was selected as the top prize winner of a national photo contest not long ago.

If a friends group could be formed to enhance the experience at Sicily Island Hills WMA I think that would be phenomenal. Hiking is a great part of visiting these hills and trail maintenance could go a long way towards repeat visitation.  A specially designed lookout tower, perhaps on the site of the previous forest lookout tower, could be used for educational purposes and rented out for overnight lodging.  With a tower cam installed, internet visitors could enjoy views of the surrounding hills and wildlife at their leisure.

Tourism respectful of the environment is a growing area. Communities in the surrounding areas would benefit greatly in numerous ways. With the proper mix of ideas and people, there is no limit to the great things that could happen in the Sicily Island Hills region.

P.S. November 21 is my birthday.


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